Dear Belly,

[ Image credit: Lauren Bodwell Photography]
You gross me out.
I've cried over you.
You have the skin of an eighty year old.
I'm 28.
You cause me pain. Still.
You gave me a hernia.
It took surgery to "fix" you.
You don't look like mine.
Will I ever accept you?
Can I ever be happy with you?

Let's talk.
Congratulations if you look like almost every single one of my mama friends who miraculously won your pre-baby belly back.  I salute you...You and your superior genetics that allowed you to deflate yourself right back to your bikini rock. I naively believed I'd be right there on the beach next to you, babe. Shit happens. Daniel happened [Ha!]. No, but seriously that's awesome for you. No need to continue on reading this one!

If you're still here, I'll assume you are a soft bellied mama, like myself, and you are looking for someone to relate to and some inspiration in moving forward. Welcome. You [we] are not the exception to the rule. Ok? The media may have missed the memo, but tummies that have housed babies often DO look like yours, mine, and our moms'. I'm sure you've heard this, but you did not/do not have much control over what your stomach is going to look like in the aftermath of childbirth. Your genes do. Thanks Ma! [just kidding, but seriously though] The photo above is MY stomach. That adorable squish on my hip is my first son, Daniel when he was somewhere between 6-8 months old. [Yeah, I'm that mom who took too many photos and took no time to label them.] Let me tell you that I was a CrossFit instructor and athlete for four years prior to him coming along and I barely slowed down while I was pregnant [safely, duh]. I did not pop a stretch mark until well after 30 weeks. I thought I still might be in the clear to get my strong, flat stomach back after he was done cooking. Then this happened: 

Sweet mama!!! You should have seen me standing! Ahh the point of no return...I was 38 weeks here and I could easily rest my stomach on a table top. It was was scary. I'm not sure what I expected my stomach to do after Daniel was evicted...I guess I was just blissfully hoping for a miracle? I'll stop right there. I got one. I know it. You know it just as well as I do, that what came out of this huge body and self transformation was nothing short of a miracle. Daniel. I'm not going to go on getting all mushy here, but you know what I'm getting at. "How can you hate your body after what it did for you?" How many times have you heard that one? You can't fault them for trying here... They're right. We did "earn those tiger stripes," mamas, BUT that does not mean we have to throw them a party and welcome them into the fam....OK? I hate my wrinkled, mushy pouch. There used to be a tight six pack under there that helped me throw a ton of weight around in the gym. It was even cute enough to sport a belly button piercing [RIP]. I mourn the loss of that washboard belly and in true "woman form" I used to find it flawed when I had it. Ha! We're never truly satisfied, ladies.

I don't have the magic answer here to help you to accept your new bod or tricks up my sleeve to get it back to what it was. If that were the case you'd be reading my bestseller by now! I'm just here to offer you a "ME TOO!" Don't we all need those?! I will tell you that I have a heck of an easier time lovin' on my "new tummy" when I'm eating clean and working out on a regular basis. My stomach will never [it's physically insurmountable] look like it did in early 2012 [before]. It also does not look like it did in 2013 [after]. Progress over perfection, people! All I can say to end this here is that it's OK. You are not alone and you are not wrong.

There are moms out there [maybe even you] who did not instantly bond with their newborn. For some of us, it took a little while. Days, weeks, or even months [look for another post about that]. If falling in love with the very being you created inside of you can take time, then why the heck would it not be acceptable for it to take awhile to love your new bod? Love is a stretch. Just work on liking it. That's what I'm doing. I wear shirts that flatter me, not hug me. I'm trying to drink a lot of water and get lots of colored veggies in my diet...key word: trying. That's all we can do is try. Try your best and let go of times you fall short. They're gone. Focus on the next best thing you can do. I've given a lot of "do's," but I have a big fat DON'T for you: DON'T go scrolling through your Facebook/Instagram comparing what you have to what they have. That's a losing battle all day long. Julie and I will get into the dangers of social media in another post, I promise. For right now, just DON'T and take me at my word. If you are going to scroll. scroll through your baby's first year. Basque in the joy of what you did and what that belly did for you. 

Dear Belly, 
Nice work.

Ps. I have a four finger separation [doctor term: diastasis recti]. I've never actually taken the time to read through the blogs that claim to have towel exercises on the floor that can help. I just do non-invasive exercises to build my core strength [ie. squats, lunges, planks instead of sit ups and crunches]. If you have more info or tips on how to work on "closing the gap," DO SHARE!